McArdle 'Blog' photoMcArdle Blog L7 ~ 11/05/2013


This year the American Cancer Society, or ACS, celebrates its 100th birthday. It was originally founded in 1913 as the American Society for the Control of Cancer and over the next hundred years its mission to fight back against cancer has remained as strong as ever.

The scientific and societal milestones achieved in the fight against cancer over the last 100 years are truly remarkable. Two out of three people diagnosed with cancer now survive for at least five years after the initial detection of the disease. This has translated into a 20 percent decline in death rates due to cancer in the United States since the early 1990s; put another way, nearly 1.2 million lives have been saved over the past 20 years. This progress has meant that “more than 400 people a day are now celebrating birthdays that would have otherwise been lost to the disease.”

As the largest non-government group that provides funding for cancer research, the ACS has spent more than $3.9 billion since the 1940s on patient advocacy and cancer research. Nearly 72 cents of every dollar donated to the ACS goes to program services such as patient support, prevention services, detection and treatment, and over 20% of that goes toward cancer research.

Through their support of research, the ACS has contributed greatly to numerous improvements in the understanding and treatment of various cancers, from what causes different cancers - including the role of tobacco and obesity - to how these cancers are influenced by genetics and the environment. Studies funded by the ACS have contributed to some of the more important drug discoveries to help in the fight against cancer, including Gleevec® for chronic leukemia and Herceptin® for breast cancer. Even though there is still much to be done, the ACS is clearly helping to pave the way to make cancer a less devastating disease.

HowardTemin The ACS has also significantly promoted the idea that early detection can be one of the better forms of protection from the devastating effects of cancer. Examples include the urging by the ACS for the wide adoption of the Pap test and mammograms for women.

Finally it should be noted that 46 Nobel Prize winners were funded by the ACS at some time during their careers, often when they needed support to start to develop their theories that ultimately led to their important discoveries. Three researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are part of this prestigious group, each receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their significant work in understanding the biology behind cancer. These scientists include: Dr. Edward L. Tatum (1958) for his work looking at how mutations can alter the nutritional requirements of cells; Dr. Günter Blobel (1999) who studied how proteins localize to different parts of the cell; and McArdle’s very own Dr. Howard M. Temin (1975) who discovered the reverse transcriptase enzyme that generates complimentary DNA (cDNA) from RNA.

With over 100 years of saving lives and “sponsoring birthdays,” the American Cancer Society has been one of the leaders in helping understand cancer and transforming this disease from a deadly one to one that is treatable and ultimately preventable.

More information and ways that you can help the fight against cancer can be found at:

American Cancer Society website

YouTube video on the ACS's 100th Birthday history:

~John Colletti